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Summary:

Skype has been one of the top downloaded apps for the iPhone since its release last week, even though Apple bowed to AT&T in the U.S. to prevent the VoIP program from working on 3G. US Skype users are relegated to finding a WiFi hotspot to […]

skype_logoSkype has been one of the top downloaded apps for the iPhone since its release last week, even though Apple bowed to AT&T in the U.S. to prevent the VoIP program from working on 3G. US Skype users are relegated to finding a WiFi hotspot to take advantage of Skype on the iPhone, something we’re not surprised to see. Phone carriers are no doubt concerned that cheap VoIP calls will cost them talk minutes so they do whatever they can to prevent that.

T-Mobile Germany is following AT&T’s path by also prohibiting Skype use over 3G but extending that ban to WiFi hotspots they operate. That’s right, T-Mobile Germany is prohibiting the use of Skype over any network they own, 3G or otherwise.

The reasons, say T-Mobile, are purely technical rather than economical. A spokesman for T-Mobile told German media that the company has been in fact blocking all VoIP applications over its mobile network for two years.

“There are two reasons for this – because the high level of traffic would hinder our network performance, and because if the Skype program didn’t work properly, customers would make us responsible for it.”

The people behind the world’s leading VoiP application are not impressed. Skype’s general counsel, Robert Miller, has called the decision “an April’s Fool joke at the expense of Skype users in Germany”.

“What amazes me is that Skype is the number one download on the App Store in Germany, and yet the country’s dominant telecom operator has already made it known that it would block the use of Skype on iPhone (and on BlackBerry), both for its mobile network customers, and at its Wi-Fi hotspots” Miller wrote on the company’s blog.

This donnybrook is going to get worse with Skype set to release shortly on the BlackBerry platform. The wider it gets spread the more active these carriers are going to be to block its use. It’s also unsettling to see Skype being blocked by anyone over WiFi. That’s a good reason to call for a boycott, if you ask me.

(via apc mag)

  1. T-Mobile also charges a monthly service fee for VOIP calls with T-Mobile service. AT&T does not have this additional monthly fee for this service. Probably another reason AT&T does not care about VOIP and T-Mobile does….

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  2. i don’t understand the ins-and-outs of cellular services and technology, but wouldn’t it make sense (especially in the long run) to get rid of “voice calling” and just make your whole cellular network into a “data” network? then, if users want to use voip, great; if they want to just browse the net or text message, then they can; they could even–gasp!–watch video! since everything is “digital” now, i haven’t understood why everyone insists upon the maintaining every ‘data stream’ as a separate service. everything is just data, and should be delivered as such, through one ‘pipe’ that is paid for monthly. the water company doesn’t care what you do with your water after they hook the pipe up to your house; why should carriers care what you do with your data?

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  3. Who do you want to boycott? T-Mobile? What do you suggest should T-Mobile hotspot customers do when they need WiFi access for their laptops (say, at the airport)?

    And are you also calling for an AT&T boycott, since they, too, are protecting their voice minute revenue?

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  4. Boycott is a strong term for sure but I can’t get over T-Mob Germany blocking Skype on their WiFi hotspots. That’s just crazy.

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  5. Two Words: Corporate Greed

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  6. Completely agree that it’s “crazy” to block VOIP apps on hotspots. My employer is pushing us more and more to use VOIP to cut down on telecom costs, especially for international travel/calls, which makes sense. I don’t think T-Mobile would have much of a chance of blocking it, though, since it would run through VPN (so they’d unlikely be able to identify the bit stream as a VOIP call). And I am fairly certain that right now they aren’t blocking Skype even outside of VPN, since I just recently used it. And it wasn’t really a violation of their T&Cs as I was roaming onto their hotspot via iPass.

    Ben’s got it right: carriers should just provide a data pipe and consider everything bits.

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  7. Corrupted Mind Tuesday, April 7, 2009

    Skype is the doomsday machine for telco’s. It will literally relegate them to being dumb pipes faster than any other technology. Telco’s in europe already give you unlimited txts/mms and big x-net mins – the EU competition Commission has now set pricing on roaming. Skype would just finish them off. My thoughts on the wifi situation is that T-Mobile offers the wifi bundled in its call/data/txt packages, in London anyway, and they’re pretty prevalent (in big cities) so offering wifi would more or less be de-facto 3G for some users.

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  8. One of the telco’s in the UK (3UK)have been promoting and offering Skype with a range of their handsets and plans for a couple of years now. This is what other Telco’s need to do, move with the changes in technology and voice calling instead of trying to block it. It’s available on S60 phones with certain tariffs as well as a couple of dedicated phones more geared towards Skype, the INQ is one of them http://www.three.co.uk/Mobiles/INQ1 .

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  9. Ben asks ‘wouldn’t it make sense (especially in the long run) to get rid of “voice calling” and just make your whole cellular network into a “data” network?’

    The answer is ‘yes’, and in LTE this is what is supposed to happen. Voice calls in LTE basically become VOIP, but using an internal VOIP system.

    As for why it’s not like that now, that’s because mobile data has been built on top of a legacy system that treats voice in a distinctly different way from data to give the kind of voice service most of us expect (specifically low latency). The developments envisaged for LTE should give this low latency. Note that even so, it seems likely that voice would be handled differently from other sorts of data in LTE, because the requirements for voice are different from the requirements for (say) surfing. Nowadays voice uses a very low data rate – it can be lower than 10 kbit/s. With data we’re typically looking for higher rates than that, but can usually tolerate a higher latency. These days mobile data uses various classifications for the type of data and treats them differently. Data isn’t all equal. Crucially, for the operators, voice is much more lucrative per bit than mobile broadband.

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    1. And the point is also that telecos are far less sophisticated than they would like us to believe. Many of them are running very old kit that can’t handle the newer types of handsets and applications well. T-Mobile is being conservative because a widespread use of VOIP may spoil the perceived quality for its paying customers.

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  10. Telco greed is a universal constant… these are the same people who charged through the nose to transmit a simple few-hundred-byte text message that cost them absolutely nothing to move except what pittance they had to spend on a few servers to handle that.

    It’s simple enough to see what they are doing – they are protecting their income stream off voice traffic. Hardly surprising, if they are allowed to get away with it.

    This is in fact partly why people who want network neutrality to be law get so worked up about the whole topic – if any carrier can start blocking or slowing down competitors data for purely competitive reasons the only result of that is serious damage to usability for the end users and increased costs all round.

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